Croat 'bandits' out to snatch rich HK purse

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 February, 2008, 12:00am

They loved the idea of upsetting the establishment so much, that when a group of students from the city of Split decided to form a football team back in 1911, they decided to adopt the title Hadjuk.

In Balkan folklore, the Hadjuk is a romanticised figure who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, someone like Robin Hood.

These modern-day 'bandits' from Croatia will be out in force today as they attempt to wrest away a purse filled with US$60,000 from the Hong Kong League XI by winning the Wing Lung Bank Lunar New Year Cup this evening (kick-off 5.30pm) at the Hong Kong Stadium.

The home team, mostly made up of Brazilians who ply their trade in the local First Division League, will not give up without a fight and yesterday promised to give their best shot at keeping the lucre for themselves.

'They are a very good team and we will respect them, but we won't be overawed by them,' said Hong Kong League XI striker Tales Schutz. 'It will be a difficult game, but I believe we have a chance to win.'

Captained by South China midfielder Li Haiqiang, the league of local gentlemen will need to raise their game against the famous Croatian outfit which looked quite at ease as they defeated South Korea's Ulsan Hyundai 2-1 on the opening day.

But even though they will start as outright favourites, Hadjuk coach Robert Jarni was not taking anything for granted, very much aware that home conditions could play a big part in favouring their opponents.

'Hong Kong seemed to be a good side. They played an interesting formation the other day and we will have to be careful. But we are confident of winning,' Jarni predicted.

'We came here to win the tournament. But I'm not thinking about the US$60,000 prize money. First we have to go out and win the match, then we can talk of how we will spend the money.'

In their superb 2-1 victory over Uruguayan First Division team Penarol, Hong Kong pushed Schutz up as a sole striker with wingers Chan Siu-ki and Maxwell Santos providing great support as Hong Kong started with a 4-3-2-1 formation.

Whether Hong Kong coach Jose Luis Silva decides to stick to the same formation won't be known until today as he gives star forward Detinho time to recover from an injury picked up during last month's annual interport against Guangdong.

'We still don't know if Detinho will start. He seems to be better. If he starts I can always move to the wing, either side,' said Schutz, who was the match-winner for Hong Kong against Penarol.

South China's Schutz scored one goal and then set up the other for Chan in the 2-1 win over Penarol.

If he has his golden boots on today, the League XI stand a good chance of breaking a 16-year drought. The last time a home team won the Lunar New Year Cup was back in 1992 when they defeated Yugoslav's Partizan Belgrade on penalties in the final.

Yugoslavia is no more today, the country being split into a number of countries, including Croatia.

But Hong Kong will hope the wheel has turned a full circle as they bid to prevent Hadjuk from spiriting away the prize.